Master Sgt. Robert Allen, a native of Pawnee, Okla., serves as the aircraft rescue firefighting chief for Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 in Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. An avid musician, Allen wrote a Christmas song for his wife, Carla, as he spends the holidays away from her and their three children.
- Photo by Cpl. Brian Adam Jones
By Brian Adam Jones
Afghanistan’s getting cold. My Marines and I have hung our Christmas stockings from a table with care, and strung lights along the top of the plywood wall in our office on the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) compound on Camp Leatherneck.
As public affairs Marines, Thanksgiving was spent linking Marines with their hometown television, radio and newspaper outlets, with Christmas promising much of the same.
My favorite part of my job as a combat journalist is meeting and interacting with all the great men and women in uniform, proud Americans who leave their friends and loved ones in the spirit of defense.
But there’s one Marine I’ve met here who certainly stands out.
Master Sgt. Robert Allen, an aircraft rescue firefighter with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, loves playing the guitar. The first time I met the bald-headed Oklahoman with a big smile, it was to take his photo for articles by the Tulsa World and Stillwater News Press.
“Hey,” he said to me anxiously, “Can you listen to this song I wrote, let me know if you think it’s any good?”
I followed him into his office where he picked up a beautiful, dark wood guitar and began a touching ballad about being away from his wife on Christmas.
The master sergeant wrote the song for his wife, Carla, while he was deployed to Iraq and sent it to her on Christmas Eve. Now, he’s gone again over the holidays, in Afghanistan this time, as the Marine aircraft rescue firefighting chief for southwestern Afghanistan.
About a week after I met Master Sgt. Allen, my mentor (EIF –25), Staff Sgt. Christopher Flurry, and I created a video of master sergeant’s song, hoping to share with folks back home the story of sacrifice thousands like Master Sgt. Allen endure as they spend holidays away from their family.
From the moment I met Master Sgt. Allen, I was struck by his humility and motivation. He lives in his office so his Marines never have to stand duty overnight there. He once told me he looks forward to getting out of bed every morning to watch his Marines come into work.
And as the video of his song has gained popularity, master sergeant has expressed surprise to me that so many are interested in a song he wrote for his wife.
I think the reason the response to his Christmas song has been so overwhelmingly positive is that it’s such an honest expression.
As a YouTube viewer commented to Carla Allen, “I always wondered why the music superstars don't write and sing these – now I know. It's so much more genuine coming from the source. Your husband has an amazing talent and I hope this makes it 'round the globe this holiday as we appreciate all those who are not only sent off to foreign lands to serve our country, but those left behind who also sacrifice during these trying times. Happy Holidays.”
As you celebrate the holidays, I hope you all bear in mind the sacrifice of the men and women who left spouses and children behind. Because as the master sergeant said, he hopes the song "will help people understand that though we're willing to do it all, it's still heartbreaking."
The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the author are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect the Department of Defense or United States Marine Corps.